You know what's the best thing about checking my email on the morning of the first day of Pesach? Reading things like this from folks who used the VR haggadah last night (quoted with permission):
I have to tell you this was the most meaningful, thoughtful seder in memory. We went on until 2:30am, talking, sharing, thinking about liberation for the world and sharing what liberation we hope for our individual lives in the coming year. I joked half-way through that no seder that happens in Paris ever gets to the last page of the haggadah because the last metro is at 12:30am! No one reacted to my bon (or mauvais?) mot; they were all too involved in the experience and wanted it to go on and on...
The haggadah provided a wonderful occasion for this communal introspection. Beautiful. Really. Our non-Jewish friends wondered at the more modern interpretations and wanted to know how anyone gets the authority to do this... We explained that this type of interpretation is part of our tradition, that it is incumbent on all of us to be engaged in thinking about tradition in more personal ways...
That's from my friend Lois. Her thoughts and insights helped me create the first version of what is now the Velveteen Rabbi's Haggadah, back in 2001. I value her opinion tremendously, so this comment means a lot to me.
Here's another one. This is from Tandy, in North Carolina. She and a friend decided that they should just be the seder they wanted to be invited to, instead of waiting for someone else to make it for them. (I know that feeling!) They gathered a table of nine people of mixed religious heritage, all of whom entered Passover with some feelings of inadequacy about being "real Jews," and they downloaded and printed the VR haggadah. Here's what she wrote:
We had a wonderful time! And we learned so much! I kept wishing we'd had a camera so we could commemorate it forever (and, unlike you, I rarely take photos!). Then we could have sent you a pic of nine people and one British pointer, one of whom -- the half-Chinese, half-Lithuanian whole Hawaiian Buddhist Jew -- called her father in Greece while driving here to prepare herself -- she's 30 years old and this was her FIRST seder, ever!
... I could not go to sleep this evening, this morning, without first reaching out to you to say thank you for playing such a generous and important role in this lovely, perfect, first night of Passover 2006, and first seder I've ever hosted.
It was the first annual Half-Jew Seder in Asheville, NC. We've decided it's a tradition we want to continue.
A room full of people who began the evening unsure how they fit into Judaism or what Judaism meant to them deciding, by the end of the night, to continue their new seder tradition: that transformation is awesome, in the original sense of the word, and it fills me with joy. Unlike Lois, Tandy is someone I've never met in person -- we've never even corresponded until today.
I originally created the Velveteen Rabbi's Haggadah for Passover because I needed it in my own life, but these days I edit, shine, and revise it as much for you as for myself. I love knowing that it's being used at seder tables around the world, and that it helps others enter into Passover in a meaningful way.
This is a big piece of the work I hope to do as a rabbi someday: introducing people to the Judaism that enriches my life, and in so doing, hopefully enriching theirs. It's a challenge to create liturgies that will both welcome those who are new to Jewish practice, and excite/engage those who've been here for a while. It feels really good to be working toward that, and to have confirmation from some of y'all that it's working.
That so many people downloaded and enjoyed my haggadah blows my mind and leaves me feeling awestruck and humbled all at once. I want to thank each of you, and everyone who posted a comment or sent an email. That people find sustenance in the haggadah means the world to me.
I welcome comments of all kinds, so if you have a reaction to the haggadah, please feel free to let me know! And, again, to all who celebrate it -- in whatever ways -- I wish you a sweet and meaningful Passover.